here are a number of ways in which a challenge can be complicated. The Challenges rules are enough to resolve most disputes, but the following rules add a few bells and whistles.
Many characters have Negative Traits. These are Traits that can be used against a character by his opponent. During the initial bid of any challenge, after you have each bid one Trait; you can call out a Negative Trait that you believe your opponent possesses. If your opponent does indeed possess the Negative Trait, he is then forced to bid an additional Trait, although you must still only risk your one Trait as usual. If he does not possess that Negative Trait, you must risk an additional Trait. (Pathos points cannot be used to substitute for Physical Traits in this instance.) You may integrate as many Negative Traits as you wish, one by one, during the initial bid phase of a challenge, as long as you can pay the price if you’re wrong.
If your opponent does not have additional Traits to bid, then your Trait is not at risk during the challenge. Additionally if you guess more than one Negative Trait that your opponent cannot match, you gain that many additional Traits in the case of a tie or an overbid. The same effect works in reverse, however, and will favor your opponent if you do not have additional Traits remaining to match incorrect Negative Trait guesses.
Example of Play
Raellyn is using her Keening Arcanos, specifically ballad, and challenging Max, an enforcer for a local Heretic cult, in a Social Challenge. She bids her Trait Eloquent (“My Eloquent singing brings tears of guilt to your eyes as you think of all the so-called blasphemers you’ve sentenced to Oblivion.”), and he responds with Intimidating (“I am too Intimidating for you to look at without running away, let alone singing without stammering.”). Raellyn then suggest that he is Naïve. (“You are possibly Naïve, and are easily swayed with my beautiful and moving song.”). However, Max does not possess this Negative Trait (“I’m not Naïve, I’m just amazed and angered that you would make such a feeble attempt to sway my emotions.”). Therefore Raellyn would have to have to risk an additional Social Trait, like Commanding (“My voice is also incredibly Commanding, and makes you think about all that you have done in your unlife.”) if she wished to press the challenge further.
It can be risky to bid Negative Traits, but if you’re sure about what you’re doing, you can raise the stakes for your opponent, possibly even to the point where she relents rather than risking additional Traits. Just make sure your sources of information are dependable.
Overbidding is the system by which older wraiths and Gaunts (who often have considerably more Traits than younger opponents) may prevail in a challenge, even if they lose the initial test. An ancient Gaunt with 18 Physical Traits should be able to crush an Enfant with five. This system is designed to make that possible.
Once the test has been made, the loser has the option of calling for an “overbid.” In order to call an overbid, you must also risk a new Trait; the original one has already been lost. At this point, the two players must reveal the number or Traits they possess, starting with the player who called for an overbid. If you have at least double the number of Traits your opponent does in the appropriate category, you may then attempt another test. As with a tie, you can state a number of Traits less than the actual number you have and keep your true power secret. This can be dangerous, though, unless you are completely confident in your estimation of your opponent’s abilities.
Example of Play
Bilestoad, a twisted and ancient Nephwrack (a non-player character usually played by a narrator), has decided to crush Lucas, an Enfant with little experience, thereby forcing him into a Harrowing. A test was called, and Bilestoad lost. At this point, Bilestoad, confident of his abilities, calls for an overbid. The Nephwrack has been Oblivion’s servant for quite a while and has 13 Physical Traits, and he guesses that this new wraith probably doesn’t have quite so many. (He’s right, the unfortunate Lucas has only 5.)
Having made this assessment, Bilestoad risks an additional Trait Relentless. (“I will never give up as I Relentlessly try to rend your Corpus into bite-sized chunks.”). They do a second test, and this time they tie. Bilestoad clearly has more Traits and therefore wins. At the end of this challenge, Bilestoad loses the initial Trait he bid from the first test. However, because he overbid, he has won the challenge, and is able to tear into Lucas’ Corpus. Lucas also loses the initial Trait he bid because Bilestoad won the second test.
Sometimes you may have to undergo a challenge against a Narrator rather than against another player, such as when you are trying to pick a lock or cross the Shroud. In such circumstance, you merely bid the Trait that would be appropriate, then immediately perform a test against the Narrator. Before the test is made, the Narrator decides on the difficulty of the task you are attempting. The test proceeds exactly as it would if you were testing against another character. Of course, you may overbid in a static action, but beware, because the Narrator can overbid as well.
Example of Play
Jonah wants to escape from the Tempest because a ravening pack of Spectres is hot on his trail. As Jonah is using his Argos Arcanos (specifically Tempest Threshold), this entails a Physical Challenge. Jonah has six Physical Traits to bid, but since he is under a bit of pressure and may not be thinking quite clearly, between the Tempest and the Shadowlands. Jonah does his first Static Challenge with the Narrator and wins, finding as good a place as any to try to open a Nihil. Then, with the pack closing in, he makes his second and hopefully final test against the Narrator, and luckily wins this one as well. He opens a Nihil form the inside and throws himself quickly through it, hearing it close behind him as the discordant baying of the Spectres fades away.
Sometimes a Narrator may leave notes on objects, such as books and doors. These note indicate the type of challenge that must be won for something to occur (such as understanding the contents of a book, opening a door, or identifying an artifact). With experience, you may learn how difficult it is to open a locked door. However, difficulty rating can be as variable as your character’s Demeanor.
Simple Tests are used to determine if you can do something successfully when there is no real opposition. Simple Tests are often used when using Arcanoi. Most Simple Tests do not require you to risk or bid Traits, though some may.
When a Simple Test is called, a test (Rock-Paper-Scissors) is done against the Narrator. Unless otherwise specified, the player succeeds on a win or a tie.